New app puts abortion instructions right on your smartphone

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The Safe Abortion app was created to offer a way for people to learn about their medical options safely and discreetly. LIDERINA / SHUTTERSTOCK

A new smartphone app that serves as a portable guidebook to abortion has been given the ironic name of “Safe Abortion,” despite the fact that at least one of the parties to an abortion is never safe, by definition.

Hesperian, a Berkeley, Calif.-based nonprofit that develops and publishes health information on a range of global issues, created the app as a way for people to learn about their medical options on the device around which modern life has come to revolve, and in a way that is curiously isolated from other people.

The app can be downloaded for free and operated offline, a design feature to “safeguard privacy,” but because of its offline functionality users aren’t able to connect with one another to build community through engagement.

Downloaders of the app can, however, find a pregnancy calculator, explanations of different abortion methods, and instructions for how to administer misoprostol for a medical abortion, Truthout reports.

Additionally, despite providing an “extensive FAQ section,” according to its website, the app doesn’t offer a list of resources for where to find providers or misoprostol, crucial information for people who live where abortion is under legislative pressure.

In May, Alabama’s governor signed into a law an abortion ban that would exempt only those whose lives are at risk or whose fetuses aren’t viable. Since then, a number of states — including Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Georgia — have moved to drastically restrict access.

“It’s getting harder and harder for them to get” accurate information about abortion, said Sarah Shannon, executive director of Hesperian.

Users from more than 220 countries visit Hesperian online, and Shannon said Hesperian staff noticed that the most popular search on the site was for unsafe abortion.

“Uniformly, this was always among the top, if not the most visited, piece of content from anywhere in the world,” she said.

The top users of the app are from the United States, Nigeria, India, Argentina, Cameroon, and Mexico, but people interact with it differently depending on where they live, she says.

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